Today Canadians go to the polls to see if the ruling Liberals remain in power, or if they will be ousted in favor of the Conservatives. (For those who don’t closely follow such things, Canada is a small country south of Detroit.) The Liberals have been in power for a long time, and aside from the normal woes of prolonged incumbency (in-fighting, intellectual exhaustion, voter fatigue, etc.), the Liberals are also reeling from a scandal over the funneling of government advertising money in Quebec into Liberal coffers. The Conservatives are sharpening their knives and trying their darndest not to make any anti-Quebec jokes in public.
The Liberals are pinning their hopes on America, or more precisely, Canadian aversion to America. Aside from (eastern) Canada’s cultural dislike of America, the Liberals have been pitched a great slow ball by the Bush Administration, which in its role of protectionist pander to the American timber industry has been flouting a final ruling to the effect that US soft-wood tarrifs against Canada are a blatent violation of the its NAFTA treaty obligations.
While most Americans are likely to react to this issue by saying, “I didn’t realize that Canada was — you know — technically a separate country,” it has been a very big deal north (or south if you are in Detroit) of the border. Interestingly, the American judiciary has also popped up as an issue in the campaign:
[Martin, the Liberal PM] seized this week on Harper’s [the Conservative challenger] criticism of judicial activism, warning that the Conservatives would try to circumvent the courts. Helping Martin, the attorney general of Ontario, Michael J. Bryant, accused Harper of wanting to “Americanize our judiciary.”
What they are arguing about here is the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. Now regardless of how one comes down on the merits of Canada, same-sex marriage, or the evils of the United States, this is a bizarre rhetorical game. Whatever judicial involvement in contentious social issues may be, it is as American as apple pie. (And yes, I realize that they have apples in Canada too. The Bush Administration is probably secretly funding covert Canadian crop destruction at the behest of Washington apple farmers.) Indeed, it seems to me that strong judicial review has been one of America’s few constitutional exports. Most places have not been too impressed by the separation of powers and a strong independent executive. In this sense, the Westminster model has been much more successful around the world than has been the American model. What countries — notably Canada and Israel — have self-consciously borrowed from the United States are strong, independent judiciaries dedicated to the legal elaboration of fundamental rights.
Hitting Harper for secretly wanting to Americanizing Canadian health care might be a bit plausible. As for the Canadian judiciary, it strikes me that it has already been Americanized…